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Uganda decides: Parliamentary candidates urged to address WASH

Published on: 09/12/2015

As Uganda gets ready for a general election slated for February 2016, Members of Parliament seeking re-election have been challenged to address WASH issues and include them in their individual and political party manifestos.

Uganda is getting ready for a general election slated for February 2016. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) remains one of the key issues of concern for the population. Members of Parliament (MPs) seeking re-election have been challenged to address WASH issues and include them in their individual and political party manifestos.

Since 2012, MPs have been at the forefront of advocating for policy changes in WASH. Under the Uganda Parliamentarians Forum on WASH (UPF-WASH), the MPs have been able to address the several WASH issues on the floor of Parliament including: - advocating for the Office of the Prime Minister to coordinate WASH issues; moving a motion on Menstrual Hygiene Management; signing of the protocol on agriculture, water and environment; enabling all MPs to understand international commitments on WASH, ratified by Uganda; pushing for a World Bank grant for small town water systems, among other things.

On 18 November 2015, during a consultative meeting with stakeholders, MPs subscribing to the UPF-WASH expressed their concern about some key WASH issues, arguing that these must be addressed in the election period and that all politicians should put them top on the agenda. The issues raised included:

Funding for WASH: MPs were concerned about the small percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is invested in WASH. Honorable Kabajo Kyewalabye particularly recommended that the percentage of the GDP allocated to WASH should be raised from the current 0.5%. Responding to Hon. Kabajo's concern, Mr Othieno Odoi from the National Planning Authority encouraged MPs and other stakeholders to consider the fact that WASH is a cross cutting issue which is allocated resources across different government ministries and departments. He therefore requested them to aggregate all the allocations across sectors, in order to get the true reflection of the percentage of the GDP invested in WASH. Mr Odoi also requested the MPs to play their critical role of appropriating national resources according to national development priorities like WASH.

Sanitation in schools: Honorable Dorothy Nshaija observed that the student to stance ratio was still too high at 67 to 1. She argued that whereas each sector was expected to plan for WASH as a cross cutting issue, there were some sectors that had not allocated adequate resources. She gave an example of health centres with dire hygiene situations, yet the Ministry of Health was supposed to allocate resources for WASH in all health facilities, just as the Ministry of Education was expected to allocate resources for school WASH.

WASH Monitoring: MPs were also concerned about the lack of harmonized indicators to monitor especially sanitation. They noted that there were different indicators and approaches applied by different actors to monitor WASH activities and service delivery, which created a situation where the WASH sector lacked agreed and reliable data. The National Planning Authority was requested to provide the indicators under the new joint monitoring programme in the Office of the Prime Minister. The MPs also recommended that monitoring WASH should not be restricted to clinics and schools, but should also be extended to other institutions like prisons.

Sustainability of rural water supply facilities: Honorable Julius Maganda observed that increasingly, boreholes were becoming unsustainable and it was time to identify other affordable and accessible water supply facilities. In many cases, the politicians ended up taking the responsibility of maintaining boreholes, which was unsustainable in the long run. He called for investment in large scale piped water systems, which were perceived to be more cost-effective, easier to maintain, and would most likely enable users to contribute to the maintenance.

Relevance of community health officers: The MPs were also concerned that community health workers were not well capacitated to effectively promote WASH at community level. Hence the outstanding question: are community workers still relevant? It was observed that while the structures for health workers existed up to community level, in most districts the structures were not functional especially because of lack of adequate human and financial resources. MPs were requested to work with technical personnel in line ministries to make the structures functional.

Highway sanitation: Honorable Dr Twatwa reiterated the need to set up sanitation facilities along all highways, the absence of which was affecting other development sectors like tourism. He called for a review of all road plans under the Ministry of Works and Transport. He also recommended that under the coordination of OPM, all ministries should plan for WASH issues under their jurisdiction – Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Works, Ministry of Water and Environment and Ministry of Agriculture. The MPs recommended that the issue of highway sanitation should be factored in the 2016/17 budget.

Domesticating international commitments: It was observed that Uganda had ratified many international accords and declarations on WASH. The latest was the signing of the Ngor Declaration during the AfricaSan4 in Dakar Senegal, May 2015. However, the MPs noted that the commitments were not domesticated and adequately implemented at country level. The MPs agreed that they had a role to hold government accountable on the implementation of such international commitments.

WASH on the election agenda: Water Aid Uganda Ag. Country Representative, Ms Spera Atuhairwe asked MPs to include WASH issues in their manifestos. She appealed to the MPs to keep the WASH issues high on their campaign agenda. Although the MPs reported that their political party manifestos addressed WASH issues, they all agreed that they would continue advocating for WASH even in their individual capacities.

Other concerns raised included: public awareness about hand washing with soap; overcrowding in places of abode and in public facilities; provision of sanitary pads for school children; and discrepancies between standards of sanitation facilities.

The key recommendations emerging from the discussions were:

  • There should be more allocation of resources to Local Governments since that is where all WASH programmes are implemented
  • Politicians should desist from using their personal resources to facilitate government programmes because, apart from that being unsustainable, it is often perceived as political interference.
  • There should be efforts to increase inter-ministerial coordination between Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. All line ministries should contribute to WASH resources.